The Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser Channels Sinatra on Solo Debut
"I know everything that's going to happen, I did all the interviews," Leithauser told Radio.com during a phone conversation. "It's not like somebody said something and I'm going to be surprised."
After 15 years as the front man for the Walkmen, Leithauser is aiming to conquer the music world on his own with a record that has him playing the role of the modern-day crooner, which is a new musical direction for him. At the same time, though, he's well aware that no matter how many times he swears this isn't just another Walkmen record, people are going to make comparisons between Black Hours and one of the seven records he released with his former band-which, by the way, didn't officially break up but went on "extreme hiatus" in 2013.
"People are going to compare the two no matter what," Leithauser said. "But when you're writing songs, you can't fall back on your old tricks. People are going to be disappointed if you really just sound the same way. But this is different."
And the truth is, he's right, Black Hours is not a Walkmen album. On his solo debut, Leithauser took inspiration from Frank Sinatra, namely Ol' Blue Eyes' 1955 album In the Wee Small Hours-a favorite of Leithauser's during high school-and his 1965 release, The September of My Years. Michael Bublι he is certainly not, though, so anyone expecting to hear Leithauser do a version of "My Way" will be disappointed.
Instead, Leithauser is tackling aging and alienation, reveling in the darker side of life. It's something he said his old band wasn't too keen on doing. "We were always shunning our dark side. I thought sometimes we did dark music pretty well, so I thought, 'I'm going to make this album as dark as I possibly can.'"
Black Hours starts with "5 AM," a downbeat piano number that has Leithauser asking, "Do you ever wonder why I sing these love songs when I have no love at all?" The singer wrote it with Paul Maroon, the guitarist and pianist for the Walkmen, right after the band decided to take some time off.
"I wanted to try and sound as heavy as I could, but it started getting funny," Leithauser said. He admits he had a little trouble taking this sad sack persona he had created seriously, but the ability to laugh at one's self is necessary; in Leithauser's opinion, even Sinatra could have benefited from having a better sense of humor.
"I really did think he was very schmaltzy and cheesy for so many years. And I still do on some level," Leithauser explained. "Now, I look at him with a little bit of a sense of humor, but I don't think he had a sense of humor."
He continued, "I don't want to be as serious as maybe he was when he made [In The Wee Small Hours], but I love the sound of it. I can get into the schmaltziness of it now." more on this story
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